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Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Water Safety Basics

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The summer news is already featuring some tragic deaths of youngsters who have drowned. Drowning is a leading cause of death in young people, for many reasons, most of them related to lack of supervision, and the inquisitive and risk-taking behaviors of infants, children, and teenagers. As I mentioned in a previous post, outdoor injury prevention is the name of the game. Once a submersion (under water) event has occurred and the victim is seriously ill, it is sadly often too late for rescuers and doctors to do anything that makes a big difference in survival and clinical outcome.

Here are important methods of prevention in the summer when young people will be around water:

  1. Supervise all young children when they are swimming or near bodies of water.
  2. Have all swimming pools properly fenced to prevent improper entry.
  3. Keep the level of water in swimming pools high enough to the edge of the pool so that a person who struggles to the side can slide his or her body up over the edge and out of the water.
  4. Insist that life jackets be worn whenever someone is on a boat, kayak or jet-ski; water-skiing; white-water rafting; or in any other circumstance in which they may be tossed into deep or swiftly-moving water. Maintain a lookout or lifeguard for all swimmers, water skiers, and other persons in the water.
  5. Insist on helmet use for all kayakers and white-water rafters.
  6. Do not allow diving into known or suspected shallow water, such as from rock ledges (lakes and quarries), rope swings, or diving boards.
  7. Do not allow the use of alcohol or recreational drugs near the water.
  8. Do not allow horseplay on boats, docks, or far out in a lake or ocean.
  9. Do not assume that swimming lessons confer protection upon young children. They still must be closely observed and supervised.
  10. Always swim or surf in pairs or groups.

photo by Paul Auerbach

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Tags: In the Water , Just for Kids

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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